Dear Visible Man,
I want to share an experience with you that happened at my workplace. I was in a situation in which my workgroup was receiving coaching on interpersonal skills development.
I shared with the group that I recently informed my daughter that I would provide financial support by directly paying for daycare for my granddaughter. The HR facilitator interrupted, stating that she was disappointed in me and that I was wrong to do so and that if I continue to provide financial support, my daughter would never learn to stand on her own.
I informed her that I would never allow my grandchild to suffer, especially when I had the financial resources to assist her. The HR facilitator added that there was no reason for me to be angry and that she was just sharing her opinion.
At the time, I was not angry, I was simply being passionate and stating my views. I then got angry and immediately shut down. I left the meeting feeling sad and confused. Her statement of being disappointed in me left me feeling confused because I felt I was doing the right thing for my daughter and granddaughter.
I am the only African American woman in my workgroup and I feel that the whites in the group are always misunderstanding me. Do you consider this to be racist?
Grandma, Tacoma WA
First I would like to congratulate you on the wellness of your grandchild. There is a clear statement of love and concern for the welfare of both daughter and grandchild. Now let’s identify the issues that are stated in your commentary:
· Question of racism within the HR facilitator’s behavior
· The decision to provide financial assistance for the well-being of your grandchild
· Your feelings of sadness and confusion
It does not support the group process when the HR facilitator shares personal disappointment or makes judgments regarding the affairs of another’s person’s life or experiences. From what is being presented here, there is no indication that the HR facilitator is affirming to any belief of racial superiority or inferiority.
From this standpoint, there is a concern as to the HR facilitator’s skills regarding the process and dynamics of group work. Furthermore, there is a lack of clarity as to the intent or potential outcome of the sharing of personal stories that are outside the context of the workplace environment.
Understanding that you are the only African-American in your workgroup, let’s give your colleagues the benefit of ignorance. Allow yourself more opportunities of observation and reflection before labeling their misunderstanding about you as racist.
A way to provide awareness is through information that can be extended as “knowledge.” It may be beneficial to explore some of what you experienced through the lens of differences in philosophies regarding raising children.
Specifically, as you indicated when you spoke, you spoke with passion and energy regarding your love and concern about your family. Rather than focus on the question of whether her interpretation of your actions as being racist, let’s focus on the “disconnect” and its proceeding outcome. In this case, the disconnection occurred following the sharing of different philosophies creating distance or shutting down communications between the two individuals.
Individuals have many thoughts in providing aid to family members. As a clinician, I am firmly committed to the concept of empowerment, in this case, empowering your daughter to care for her child. However, to what end? Does this mean the child should suffer as the parent learns to improve one’s parenting skills? Does the grandparent stand by idle and do nothing? Especially when financial resources are available?
Again, this must be taken in consideration of differences in philosophies in raising children. It may be in a given situation that the philosophy of the HR facilitator or yourself would be successful. Furthermore, if we can accept the premise that “one shoe does not fit all,” then we also accept the premise of there being no right or wrong in the difference in philosophies. It is for the individual to come to terms with what direction he or she will decide to go.
Having spent time on the earlier concerns, let’s address the third and final issue—your feelings of sadness and confusion. It appears that you may be placing more value on how or what the HR facilitator thinks or feels about you and less value on how or what you think (or feel) about yourself.
Can it be that the real issue here is about acceptance? Or self-acceptance? Or, not loving the self?
Ask yourself, do you have belief, faith and trust in your journey? Are you willing to be responsible, be accountable, and respond to the consequences of the decisions made during the journey? If the answers are yes, then the opinions of others (including the HR facilitator) matter far less than what you think or feel about your journey.
In closing, I would ask you to remember that the life you call your own is “your journey.” Be it long or short, it remains yours to experience.
Work towards self-acceptance of your life; develop a list of “the wants” you seek. Experience the joys that life holds for you.
Loving The Self
As much as I love you
I love me more
Loving me more
Does not mean
I love you less
It only means
That I love me more.
The Visible Man